When you are in the position Keith Kizer is in these days, it is hard to please everybody. With the Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal hearing earlier this year, the Nick Diaz marijuana case that has taken one strange turn after another and the Alistair Overeem case, it's been a trying time for Kizer.
The Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission took some time to talk about the various situations he and his commission have been through lately.
It was reported last week that Nick Diaz is suing the Nevada State Athletic Commission for alleged violations of statutory law and his constitutional right to due process. That is relating to his failed drug test after his fight with Carlos Condit at UFC 143 for marijuana metabolites.
Kizer, as of this interview, knew nothing of the lawsuit.
"I don't know anything about this," Kizer said. "I've not been served with anything. I've seen some press stories about it, but we've not been served with anything. The last we had talked with his attorney, Ross Goodman, the attorney general rep Chris Eckels and I.
"Ross is basically saying, 'Hey look, I'm still waiting to get that medical marijuana card from Nick. Cesar Gracie promised me it for over a month now. Don't blame me.'
"No, we aren't blaming you Ross," Kizer said. "Sometimes there's client issues. Get us that card and we can proceed and he said OK. The next thing I know, there's a letter about some kind of summary suspension and now there's apparently some kind of complaint about that."
It was reported last week that Diaz received a corner's license from the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board to corner his brother Nate for his main event fight this Saturday against Jim Miller. Kizer states he has no problem with Diaz receiving the license.
"Nick Lembo (from the NJSACB) actually sent me an email asking if I had any objection to it and I said, 'No, that's a New Jersey issue and that's up to them whether to grant it or not,'" Kizer said. "I have no problems with them saying yes or no for that matter had they said no. So that's a New Jersey issue, not a Nevada issue."
The commission has been under more fire due to the hearing of Alistair Overeem last Tuesday. The hearing was taking place due to Overeem taking a drug test after a press conference to announce his UFC 146 Heavyweight Title Fight with Junior Dos Santos. The test came back showing Overeem had a 14-to-1 testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio—more than twice the 6-to-1 ratio allowed by the NSAC.
Kizer details that it was it took a little longer than he wanted for Overeem to take the initial test after the UFC 146 presser.
"Basically what happened, I was on my way over and I told Greg Hendrick (Director of Event Operations for the UFC) and Marc Ratner (UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs) that these guys need to be told just before they get on the stage that they need to stick around afterwards," Kizer said. "I'll be showing up and I'll be bringing the drug collector with me or he'll be coming as well.
"So we showed, I showed up first, as did the chairman and one of the commissioners on their way back to the airport. We all got there right near the end of the press conference. Then as the press conference ended, the chairman and the other commissioners said, 'We are gonna head out, Keith, see ya later.' I said OK, no problem.
"As they're walking away, I see the back of Mr. Overeem's head walking out of the MGM (Grand Hotel) lobby and going to where the cars come up and pick you up. At first I thought, well maybe that's his brother. It doesn't make any sense, because I told the UFC to let them know just before they got on the stage to stick around. The other five guys knew that.
"Actually, Frank Mir and Roy Nelson both came up to me and said, 'Look, you know we have things we have to do. Do you know how long this will be?' I said, 'Look as soon as the drug collector gets here; he should be here any minute. We'll get you guys done really fast, but sorry you gotta wait till he gets here.'
"And they did," Kizer said. "There were no issues there. But with Mr. Overeem, he headed out the door. Greg Hendrick was the one who informed the fighter camps to stick around. He was beside himself, not sure why Mr. Overeem left after he had apparently told the camp. He didn't get a chance to talk to Mr. Overeem before he got on the stage, but he told his camp just to have him stick around. So he was quite shocked as well.
"A bunch of fans came to me disappointed because they wanted his autograph and asked me, 'Why did he leave?' I said, 'Well, he'll be back.' And I kinda left it at that. I didn't let the fans know about the drug test or anything like that time. That was something that at that time was a commission matter. Mr. Overeem came back about 10, 15 minutes later.
"We actually had to call Kirk Hendrick, who's the COO of the UFC and he made sure it got done. I knew he'd take care of it. The other people from the UFC that were there, including Greg, had no idea what had happened and were very confused because that was not what they had told everybody was going to happen afterwards.
"I was first told [Overeem] had to go to some interview media outlet, ESPN or something. A few days later, I was told by ESPN that they were told he was going to his criminal defense attorney's office because they had pled out that morning on the battery charge. And then later, I was told at the hearing actually on Tuesday—no no he was told to go there by his civil attorney because he was worried about getting served papers by Golden Glory.
"Of course, he could have headed straight back behind the registration desk to the private room, where we were keeping the fighters to get drug tested after they did their one-on-one interviews with the press after the press conference. But he chose to go out the front door. He says he was never told by his camp that we wanted him drug tested.
"Sounds like a familiar story from last year when apparently there was a miscommunication between him and his camp. But nonetheless, he did come back fairly quickly and then he was drug tested like the other five."
A lot of the public has been very critical of the commission for how they were praising Overeem at his licensing hearing last Tuesday. People have been calling for the commission to be replaced. Kizer doesn't understand what all the uproar is about.
"I don't understand the uproar other than people just like to complain," Kizer said. "All the commissioners are appointed to three-year terms by the governor. They are staggered so every year there's one or two up for renewal. But yeah, I don't understand. I guess they want people to berate, belittle other people. That's never been the style of this commission.
"They're ones who again don't have to flex their muscles to show how strong they are. They've already basically took this guy's career for the rest of the year, if not longer. Cost him millions of dollars in revenue that he's not gonna get now. So, there's no need to beat a guy when he's down. In other words, it's better to say no with a smile sometimes.
"And he is a former champion; he is a superstar. So I don't think there's anything wrong with softening the blow with some kind words at the end there. It didn't make any difference to the penalty he's going to be serving at least for the next long period of time, if not longer."
There has been outcry for random testing, even out-of-competition testing. Kizer says that will be happening not only in MMA, but boxing as well.
"Yes, now that we got our funding back," Kizer said. "The same week, it's not been reported pretty heavily because the boxing people aren't as enthralled with the chatter perhaps as the MMA media is. But we also tested Floyd Mayweather that same day and we tested Miguel Cotto also that week. They both passed, as did the other five gentlemen at the UFC press conference.
"So we actually had eight big names tested. Unfortunately there's a lot of falsehoods to be kind in the reporting in both the MMA worlds and the boxing world. One thing I always hear is: 'Oh the commissioners don't want to lose a big fight.'
"It's like wait a minute, I just Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos and four other names which are pretty big in the field," Kizer said. "In the past, we've tested Mayweather, Pacquiao, Couture, Lesnar and all these guys out of competition. So, if I'm afraid to test somebody, who would that be? Because it's kind of hard to beat those those names as far as popularity or things like that.
"I see people saying, "Oh, the way they denied Overeem is because they want him to fight in Nevada again.'
"It's like if we want him to fight in Nevada again, we wouldn't be denying him a license for the May 26th show," Kizer said.
You can follow me on Twitter @fightclubchi.
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